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Portuguese Sheepdog Temperament: Living with the Monkey Dog

Portuguese Sheepdog temperament is often described as intelligent, lively, devoted to family, and wary of strangers.

The Portuguese Sheepdog hails from Portugal where it was developed to be a herder, flock guardian, and all-around farm dog.

This medium-sized, shaggy-coated breed is also sometimes known as the Cao de Serra de Aires and/or the Portuguese Monkey Dog.

If you think the Portuguese Sheepdog temperament might be a good match for you, do as much research as you can about Portuguese Sheepdog behaviors and traits.

This article will provide you with a starting point for understanding the Portuguese Sheepdog personality.

Understanding the Portuguese Sheepdog Temperament: 5 Common Portuguese Sheepdog Traits

Below you will find some of the most common components of the Portuguese Sheepdog temperament.

However, please keep in mind that all dogs are individuals, so not all Portuguese Sheepdogs will display all of these traits.

There will always be a certain amount of variability within dogs of any breed.

1. Guard Dog Tendencies

Portuguese Sheepdogs were bred to be protective of their homes, flocks and families.

This trait is still a component of the modern Portuguese Sheepdog temperament.

Portuguese Sheepdogs bond deeply to their families, but they tend to be wary of strangers.

If you are a very social person, with lots of guests and house parties, this breed might not be the best match for your lifestyle.

When visitors come over, make sure they know not to force your dog to interact with them. Instead, allow your Portuguese Sheepdog to warm up to them at his own pace.

Portuguese Sheepdogs make excellent watchdogs, but it is important not to let these protective tendencies get out of hand.

If your Portuguese Sheepdog is showing any aggression towards people, consult with a veterinarian or trainer right away.

2. Exceptionally Intelligent

The official breed standard describes the Portuguese Sheepdog temperament as “very intelligent.”

Like most herding dogs, Portuguese Sheepdogs are very smart, focused, motivated and trainable.

Herding dogs are excellent problem solvers.

If you do not have flocks of sheep for your Portuguese Sheepdog to herd, you will need to provide other ways for them to use their brains.

You can channel their mental aptitude into enrichment activities. These can include training, hide-and-seek games, food puzzles or brain game toys.

3. Lively

The official breed standard also describes the Portuguese Sheepdog temperament as “very lively.”

Indeed, the Portuguese Sheepdog is very playful, curious and energetic.

Like most herding dogs, the Portuguese Sheepdog requires a lot of daily exercise to stay happy and healthy.

Click here to read one of our articles on the Top 10 Reasons to exercise your Dog Daily.

Before you bring one of these dogs home, make sure you have the lifestyle for an active dog.

If you are looking for a lazy dog to watch television with you, this is not the breed for you!

However, if you lead an active, outdoorsy lifestyle and you are looking for an energetic companion, the Portuguese Sheepdog could be your perfect match.

Portuguese Sheepdog exercise can take the form of hiking, jogging, biking, swimming, or vigorous walking.

Whatever type of exercise you choose, be prepared to devote at least an hour a day to physical activity.

Without enough exercise, your Portuguese Sheepdog may exhibit problem behaviors such as chewing, digging or barking.

If you do not have enough time to meet this breed’s exercise needs, you might want to consider a dog walker or a doggie daycare.

Another great option is to adopt an older Portuguese Sheepdog. Older dogs do not require as much exercise as puppies or adolescents.

4. Devoted to the Famer and Flock

The loyal Portuguese Sheepdog temperament makes this breed a faithful companion.

Portuguese Sheepdogs develop incredibly close bonds to their owners.

These dogs were bred to work in close partnership with people.

They do not do well when they are isolated in the backyard or left alone for long hours.

In fact, in such situations, your Portuguese Sheepdog could develop separation anxiety.

5. “Monkey Dog”

The Portuguese Sheepdog is sometimes called the “Portuguese Monkey Dog” due to its physical appearance as well as its temperament.

Also, because of its playful, inquisitive nature, the Portuguese Sheepdog can be described as having a “monkeyish” personality.

A Brief Account of Portuguese Sheepdog History

Written records of the Portuguese Sheepdog date back to the early 1900s, although the breed has probably been around for longer than that.

Although its origins are mysterious, it is possible that the Portuguese Sheepdog is related to other old European herding dogs such as the Briard, the Pyrenean Sheepdog and/or the Catalan Sheepdog.

The breed was recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 1996.

The Portuguese Sheepdog is not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club, but it is recognized by the United Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club.

Portuguese Sheepdog Size and Appearance

The breed standard for the Portuguese Sheepdog describes it as,

“A medium-sized dog, long-coated and fairly long in body, with monkey characteristics.”

The “monkey characteristics” refer to the fuzzy beard, moustache and eyebrows.

The average Portuguese Sheepdog height is between 16 and 21 inches at the withers.

The average Portuguese Sheepdog weight is between 37 and 59 lbs.

Portuguese Sheepdog colors can be yellow, chestnut, grey, fawn or wolf grey. Dark shading is permitted, but white patches are not.

Their tails should be natural. Bobbed or docked tails are disqualified.

Portuguese Sheepdog Training

The clever Portuguese Sheepdog temperament makes this breed an easy dog to train.

Portuguese Sheepdogs are highly intelligent, motivated, and eager to learn new things throughout their lives.

It is optimal to start training your puppy or dog as soon as you bring it home.

If possible, sign up for an obedience class with a local trainer. Make sure to find a trainer that uses positive, force-free training methods.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Portuguese Sheepdog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

Stay away from old fashioned trainers who train dogs using fear and punishment. Never use physical reprimands or painful training tools such as shock collars or pinch collars on a Portuguese Sheepdog.

Such outdated training methods are unnecessary and will compromise your relationship with your new dog.

Instead, keep training sessions fun and upbeat. This will be more enjoyable for you and your dog.

Once you and your Portuguese Sheepdog have completed basic obedience training, you can get involved with more advanced training such as agility or competitive obedience.

Portuguese Sheepdog Grooming

The Portuguese Sheepdog coat is described as having a “goat like” texture.

The Portuguese Sheepdog coat needs frequent brushing and combing to prevent knotting.

Their long, wavy hair will also need occasional clipping—especially around the ears, feet and sanitary region.

Like all dogs, their nails will need to be trimmed regularly, and their teeth should also be cleaned on a regular basis.

Staying Healthy: Portuguese Sheepdog Health Issues

Since the Portuguese Sheepdog is such a rare breed, there are very few studies about recurring health issues within this breed.

One source mentions that they are prone to a tick-born disease called Ehrilichiosis and they are also prone to developing cancerous tumors as they get older.

Talk with your veterinarian about other possible health concerns with this breed.

If you acquire your Portuguese Sheepdog from a breeder, speak with the breeder about the health histories of the parents as well as genetic testing for conditions such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, which are common conditions in working breeds.

Like all dogs, your Portuguese Sheepdog should visit a licensed veterinarian at least once per year for an annual physical exam and yearly vaccinations such as Rabies and Distemper.

Your Portuguese Sheepdog should also be up to date on a flea preventative, tick preventative and a heartworm preventative at all times. Talk to your vet about the best medications for your dog.

Unless you plan to show your dog in dog shows, spaying and neutering is highly encouraged. Talk with your veterinarian about the best time to schedule this procedure.

With excellent medical care and nutrition, the Portuguese Sheepdog lifespan is usually between 12 and 13 years.

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Portuguese Sheepdog Rescue and Adoption

If you think the Portuguese Sheepdog temperament is the right match for your lifestyle, the next step will be to find one to add to your family.

This can be a difficult task, because the Portuguese sheepdog is a very rare breed, especially outside of Portugal.

One option would be to try to look for a Portuguese Sheepdog for adoption.

The Perks of Rescue Dogs

There are a lot of benefits to adopting a dog rather than buying one from a breeder.

There are already so many homeless dogs in the world, so it is ideal to adopt an existing dog that is in need of a home rather than encourage breeders to bring more puppies into the world.

Another incentive is that rescue dogs often come with some prior training, such as house training.

They are usually a little bit older and calmer. They are usually past the destructive puppy chewing stage.

In addition, the adoption fees for rescue dogs are generally substantially less than the Portuguese sheepdog price from a breeder.

How to Find a Portuguese Sheepdog for Adoption

Happily, Portuguese Sheepdogs are very rare in American animal shelters.

However, it is still a good idea to visit your local animal shelter or humane society. You can ask to put an application on file in case any Portuguese sheepdogs become available in the future.

The staff might also be able to give you a call about other similar dogs that come in.

The staff at the animal shelter can also direct you to the local rescue groups that might specialize in herding breeds or rare breeds.

You can also search for adoptable dogs online using websites such as Petfinder, Adoptapet, and Getyourpet.

Facebook is another great tool for accessing the rescue community. There are countless Facebook groups dedicated to specific breed rescue.

When you rescue a dog from an animal shelter or rescue group, the adoption fee usually covers basic medical care such as spay/neuter, vaccinations and microchip.

How to Find a Portuguese Sheepdog For Sale from a Reputable Breeder

Another option for some people is to purchase a Portuguese Sheepdog puppy from a breeder.

However, this will also be challenging because Portuguese Sheepdog breeders are scarce. Be prepared to wait for months, or possibly years, for a Portuguese Sheepdog puppy to become available from a high-quality breeder.

To start your search, you can contact your national kennel club, such as the American Kennel Club, and ask for a list of Portuguese Sheepdog breeders.

Once you identify a possible breeder, you will still need to do your own research, though.

Always make sure you visit the potential breeder in person. Ask to see the breeding dogs and make sure they are friendly, healthy specimens of the breed.

Ask to see medical records and the results of any genetic testing.

Be wary of any breeder that does not want you to visit, and/or wants to conduct all of the business online or over the phone.

Never purchase Portuguese Sheepdog puppies sight-unseen over the internet. Even though a breeder has a fancy website, you might be dealing with an unscrupulous breeder or a puppy mill. You cannot tell anything about a breeder until you visit in person.

A good breeder will always welcome your visit. In fact, a good breeder will want the chance to get to know you and ask you questions. Responsible breeders want to make sure that their puppies are going to excellent homes.

Conclusion: Why the Portuguese Sheepdog?

The Portuguese Sheepdog temperament is fabulous under the right conditions, but it is not the correct choice for every family.

If you are considering this breed, make sure you have the time and energy for a very intelligent and lively dog that needs plenty of exercise and one-on-one attention.

If you can invest the time and effort into this high-energy working breed, the Portuguese Sheepdog will make a loyal, protective, and affectionate companion.